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Monday, February 20, 2017

Better Never Late Than Ever

In Japan, society as a whole appreciates and expects conformity... especially when it comes to being on time for things.

Whether it's work, enkai/party, a date, it's train, subway and bus systems, punctuality is key.

It all comes down to the Japanese belief in wa (aka harmony).

And, it actually comes down to wa/harmony in work.

The trains, subways and buses all run to the second of being on time to their prescribed schedules - it's one of those great things about Japan.

You can expect a train to arrive at the station when the schedule says it will, and you can expect to arrive at your destination when you should... allowing you to accurately assure your day runs smoothly - especially necessary when it is time to get to work.

Work is one of those things that the Japanese expect - no demand - its employees be on time for... and the only time you can NOT set your clock, is for when it is time to leave... as you are expected to leave AFTER the boss leaves to show your dedication to the cause... to work... to the family that are your co-workers... to show wa.

This past Sunday morning, we (the family) were late for a hockey game my son was playing in.

My wife had received an e-mail back in January detailing a change in schedule... from a 10:50AM start, to an 8:30AM start.

So imagine my surprise when my wife smacked me over the head at 8:15AM to scream at me that we were late and that I had screwed up the times and we had to go now.

Turns out she was the only one who knew about the time change, and had forgotten to mention to anyone else. And this is hockey... where you have to dress up in a lot of gear... so we did.

While it was Hudson's turn to be in net (he alternates with the head coach's kid), I assumed that since we were late that his boy would be dressed for goalie... so we had Hudson put on his forward's gear.

We arrive 10 minutes late (me... I'm the assistant coach - so everyone assumes this was my fault)... find out that no one is playing goalie, so Hudson has to rip off the forward equipment and put on the goalie gear... making us miss nearly the first half of the game.

Strangely enough, the score is 0-0 by the time Hudson gets in net... and we eventually win 3-1.

I'm never late for anything. It's something I have taken great pains to ensure never happens... and when something unforeseen like this... or bad traffic makes me late... well... I'm just plain embarrassed... and angry at myself for having let everyone down.

This is the concept of Japanese wa. It is something I was doing even before I went to Japan.

In Japan... I was never ever late... it just makes you look bad.

There is NO excuse for it... especially in Japan where you take a bus, train or subway or bicycle or walk to work. Cars - I just assume everyone leaves early enough to give them enough time to assure themselves of not being late - but I don't know.

All the people in Japan I know who drove... they didn't have to drive within a big city like Tokyo or Osaka... they were small town people going to their small town jobs. No problem with traffic.

Ever.

I can recall having to ride my bicycle 10 kilometers in a harsh February wind that was bone-chilling as it blew into my face the entire way... wiping my runny nose with one hand as I steered the bike along the busy sidewalk dodging other bicycle riders and pedestrians... my very dark RayBan sunglasses on making it difficult to see things in the near dark, but a necessary evil to keep the cold wind from tearing my eyes, which would have made the drive even more perilous as I would have to make sure I didn't wipe frozen snot into my peepers.

I can recall arriving at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) that first morning when I rode in... and the Principal coming out - not to see if I was okay, but to ensure that I... the gaijin-no-sensei (the foreign teacher) was on time... talking to me after school that he was very happy I was able to have made it on time to work that day.

He says he hears from many other principals at different cities how the foreigner teachers are not always as conscientious about their work.

You'll notice that in this case, "my work" had nothing to do with my "output" rather it had everything to do with appearances.

If I could show up for work late, I would be setting a bad example to the other teachers... and even though I never considered myself to be a teacher, the Japanese school system did in this instance.

See... it doesn't matter to them if you are Japanese or a foreigner... punctuality means something.

I was thanked for showing up on time... which was appreciated, but also insulting... but I guess some of my fellow foreigner teachers had helped hurt their wa with their schools... meaning they had helped hurt the wa achieved by others who dared be on time.

Wa affects everyone like one large butterfly effect. 

The following is just for those involved in the teaching profession... because the "foreigners" I know in other jobs do so in the Japanese manner.

Conversely... they know that since you are a foreigner... and do not have to work as late as your Japanese counterparts... you aren't marking tests or creating them.... you aren't creating detailed work plans in Japanese... and they are also aware that you work your 9 to 5 routine, five days a week - not having to coach or teach a club activity.

As well, they know you do not have to come in on Saturdays to work half-a-day. And then teach a club activity.

Of course... you are welcome to teach a club activity... but only if the coach says it's okay and you really, really know your stuff... because the last thing you want to do is destroy the club/team's wa.

As a junior high school AET (assistant English teacher) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme... you can understand WHY I never thought of myself as a teacher... and certainly not on par with my fellow JTEs (Japanese teachers of English)... I didn't put in the same amount of work as the Japanese... I merely did what was expected of me as a foreigner... except for being punctual.

So... my advice to any of you who are living and working in Japan at this time or are thinking about it - never, ever, ever be late for work.

It's just not wa.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: If you don't think the butterfly effect is valid, consider Chaos theory (as explained in Jurassic Park)... which is the same thing... 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tokyo Architecture In WaterColor

I'm feeling a tad burned out... work was busy this week - having to finish three feature articles, writing this blog, and trying to do a weekly blog on Pioneers of Aviation - a blog that seems like it would be easy when writing about pre-1919 aviation, but always seems to take nearly 20 hours of writing just to complete an entry.

Or more.

Such is the price of knowledge. The real problem with writing about things that are old, is the veracity of the information out there.

Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get inside.

Unless you look at the handy-dandy guide chocolate companies provide inside the box of chocolates.

That's what I try to create in these blogs... and to be honest... it's tiring... so I'm doing what I am doing now... taking a breather, of sorts, while still maintaining a streak of over six straight years+ of doing a blog every day here in Japan-It's A Wonderful Rife.

I began writing everyday as an experiment, to be sure, but also to help me become a better writer, which I have arguably become. It has helped me not only learn more than I knew before about Japan and myself, and it has also enabled me to meet plenty of new people - albeit via so-called social media.

Actually, I began writing everyday for more selfish reasons... I needed an outlet from all the crazy going on around me - some of you may know what I mean... and since a cobbler should stick to what he knows, I cobble together articles via writing.

It's a long weekend here in Ontario, Canada - Family Day on Monday... which you think would be great what with the 11C weather here in Toronto this past Saturday... but I have a magazine deadline for Wednesday... compounded by the fact that I won't be there that day as I have to go out and interview a company (for April - even though the deadline is for March), so my work has to done on Tuesday before I leave.

My allergies are kicking in... my neck hurts from whatever the hell I am doing to it... I did a load of dishes, scrubbed some pots without steel wool, vacuumed the house, watched my cat barf violently causing him to poop... never seen that before...

Caught up on some TV (watch Legion and Riverdale... yes, the two shows about an X-Men - the show is VERY trippy and VERY watchable without having to read the comic books -  and one about the world of Archie comic book characters - a kind of Twin Peaks/Dawson Creek combo, or so I hear as I never saw Dawson Creek - I have around 500 Archie comics, which always amuse me... Riverdale is a dark twisted look at what Archie et al would be like in 2017), watched my hockey team lose...

Realized I didn't have anything in particular I wanted to write about tonight... could write about some student escapade in Japan... but I'm just not feeling it.

No... let me instead merely direct you to a wonderful article sent my way by friend and blog reader Vinnie, regarding a Polish artist who created some wonderful watercolor paintings of architecture in Tokyo... and no, not the fancy modern buildings, but rather painstaking detail of buildings that simply look old and nondescript when you walk past them everyday on the street.

And yet... each has a personality, capably captured by artist Mateusz Urbanowicz - and you can see more than the image at the top over at www.mymodernmet.com.

We'll see if I feel anymore genki (active/lively/well) tomorrow... but I think I may just take it easy until such time that I don't.

Check out the art and story behind it HERE.

Before I began writing these blogs everyday, I didn't really know that I liked architecture... but I guess I did, as I took a lot of photographs of certain architectural features on Japanese buildings... windows, and roofs... I know... weird... but coming from Toronto - a huge modern city, I was fascinated by the old Japanese architecture I saw all over Japan... and was dismayed when I saw it being shunted aside for more modern western-looking architecture.

At least the link I provided here will offer a glimpse into what I saw in Japan, and what made me see how different it was... even in a simple building that people walk by everyday without a second look.

Check out Mateusz Urbanowicz's artwork, and have a second look for the first time.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Dammit... I still wrote over 780 words... or about 1/3 of a feature article for work. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Early Days Of Teaching English On The JET Programme

So... what were my interactions with Japanese junior high school students like back when I was an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme?

Pretty boring, actually.

I mean, yeah... we all had a lot of laughs... did some English learnin'... had a few more laughs... but truthfully, the good stuff happened outside the classroom.

For three years I was essentially a human tape recorder, reading English sentences from a book so the students could hear the real way English words were supposed to sound, and not the slightly stilted Japanese-accented way it OFTEN (NOT ALWAYS) came out.

It's cool... I didn't mind being used in this manner.

Sometimes I would be asked to create a game, like Hangman for the kids to play... but really... I was there to either play act a book scene with a teacher, read a passage in my perfect neutral accent, observe the kids in their speaking and make gentle assessments and corrections if warranted, and while the kids did some sort of English work I could walk around the classroom and look like I owned the place.

There was no screaming in class - except when someone wasn't paying attention - and that wasn't my domain.

Even in my one "bad school" the kids were not bad IN class - just completely obnoxious outside it... maybe being a bit unruly when they knew they had a wimpy teacher... but after the teacher reported it to their homeroom teacher, the problem wouldn't happen again for a few more weeks.

Essentially, it was pretty low key. An easy job for me... with the most difficult part being having to look interested for the two to four times a day I would be required in a classroom...

I know that some of my compatriots had more duties... including having to plan original lessons every day for every class—and more power to them. But I didn't envy them.

I wasn't a real English teacher, so having to real English teacher things would not have appealed to me.

I knew of some people who were ticked off when they weren't used like a real teacher... which I thought was funny... because weren't there to be teachers, I figured... we were there to internationalize.... to help get the people and kids used to being a part of an international community rather only Japanese.

So... let me take a look back over the next few blogs and see if I can't relate to you some of the more interesting student interactions I had... from the son of the yakuza boss, to beating the crap out of a kid at judo club, to losing student respect on the soccer field, to watching kids struggle to speak English with me... and much, much more.

And all of it outside of the English classroom.

Chers,
Andrew (I like Cher) Joseph

Friday, February 17, 2017

Say Wa - ? A Glimpse Into The Japanese Concept Of Harmony

It’s hard to believe that after 3,500+ blogs, that not once have I written the Japanese word “wa (和)" even once.

Wa is a Japanese word used to discuss its own concept of harmony, and essentially defines just what the Japanese are trying to accomplish in their life, whether successfully or unsuccessfully.

Lately, it seems that wa/harmony has been less obvious in the overall scheme of Japanese life… it’s something I’ve been thinking about since about the first month in Japan after I learned of the concept back in 1990.

For me, while a half-full kind of guy, I strangely wondered if the influx of all of us gaijin/foreigners into Japanese society to teach them about internationization, was somehow going to destroy Japanese culture.

I argued within my own echo-y brain that maybe that was a good thing, after all Japanese culture had so many faults… such as women being treated like second-class citizens… the lack of immigration… and this dull, if not boring need to point out that everything they use in their daily life is Japanese.

"This is a Japanese kimono."
"These are Japanese chopsticks."
"This is Japanese rice."

When you hear it everyday as a foreigner in Japan, not only does it become tiresome, but you start to think that the Japanese are so full of themselves, and they need to get out and experience the world of internationalization a bit more… hence the early days of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, which gave us the dual job (1990-1993) to teach their students better English, but also to let them know that the Japanese were actually a part of an international community.

We were missionaries, putting forth a belief in a different faith.  

And then, being a smart guy who enjoyed playing devil’s advocate (and still do - which is what keeps me open-minded), I wondered if my view was correct.

Pride in all things Japanese… not showing off… maybe a little… but pride.

A pride in their culture, that I found refreshing.

I have long been amazed at the fervor my American cousins to the south have when it comes to being proud of being an American, and have shaken my head in disgust sometimes at how little my fellow Canadians felt something similar about their own country.

While I did think the Americanisms sometimes went too far, and Canadianisms not far enough… I thought there could be a happy medium.

Japan.

Despite their constant prattling about Japan this and Japan that, I quickly realized that they were simply talking that way to teach me about their country… and that within their own daily discussions about the world did NOT talk about themselves in that singular “Japan No.1” way at all.   

Had they found a balance… a wa?

Sort of… if there was true harmony and everyone thought exactly the same, it wouldn’t be wa… it would be brainwashing and there would not be any concept of free-thinking… and while the uni-mind way of thinking (think, work, eat, play together) is something Japan tries to follow… I wonder if the constant influx of foreigners and their way of free-thinking has altered the Japanese concept of wa… where the country no longer has harmony.

Wa, according to Wikipedia, “implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group, in which members prefer the continuation of a harmonious community over their personal interests.”

Wa is considered integral to Japanese society, and derives from traditional Japanese family values.

But what are those family values? Respect and honor.

It’s why I understood why my fiancé Noboko would forgo a happy and fulfilling life with me in order to please her father, who didn’t want her to marry or date a foreigner because it would make him look bad amongst his underlings and co-workers.

Say wa - ? Sure... if his single daughter is dating a gaijin, then she must be sleeping with him, because that's what all gaijin want - sort of yeah... but so what?

Well, if she's sleeping with a gaijin (hauuuuwch - ptoieeee!) then we know she is no longer a virgin, and the gaijin brings shame upon your daughter and she, by allowing herself to be soiled before marriage, brings shame upon you... and if you can't control your daughter, how can you control the employees under you?

It does all make sense in a warped way, because in Japan... sins against wa are magnified.

For the record, I never slept with a Japanese virgin ever.

Young unmarried couples in Japan have long slept around... it's what you do... it's primarily why they have a 'love hotel' industry in that country worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The thing is... couples are pretty much expected to have unmarried sex... but they are also expected to NOT go around making it a publicly known occurrence.

If a Japanese person is dating a foreigner... they MUST be having sex, because that's just common sense.

It's not a given, of course... and in my case it was true... but how dare a culture assume a stereotype to be 100% correct?     

Not being Japanese, and not being brainwashed into such Japaneseisms, I initially had a very difficult time with Noboko not willing to sacrifice everything that made her Japanese to be with me.

Yeah... wa is a major component of what it means to be Japanese. I fugging hate wa... even though I respect it.

... just not when it affects me in a negative way. 

You know that the true definition/translation of gaijin is "outsider" - hence the subheading under the title of the entire Rife blog.

Having my own wa - don't assume the Japanese are the only people on the planet to have harmony, it's just that I don't need anyone to formalize what my harmony should look like - Japan's wa was a point of contention to my wa - not all of the time, but in just a few of the important times.   

The fact that Noboko would go out with me… would hide that relationship from her father for a long while… implies that I, the foreigner, had impacted upon her concept of wa.

Then again… she was previously engaged to be married to a Japanese guy her father had approved off, but broke it off… stepping on the family wa. Note that I was nowhere in the family picture at that time… I arrived in her life a couple of years later…

Noboko had her own concept of wa that flied in the face of traditional Japanese family wa.

So… why was Noboko already questioning the Japanese concept of wa within her own family?
Because she was a free-thinker? She was living away from home in Kobe… a long distance from her father’s sphere of wa? Maybe. Kobe was also a hotbed of internationalization in Japan… much more so than in the rural confines of Tochigi-ken

I don’t know.

But I do know that within a group: a work group… a classroom… family…. whenever an individual breaks with the established concept of wa within that sphere… the rest of the group will bring that person back into the fold by correcting them overtly or covertly…. by the leader of that group.

Wa therefor implies structure… with the lowlies following the lead of the leader.

Individuality is frowned upon in Japan… as there are rules for everything… from how you bow, to how you speak to a superior, to how you dress… to how you do everything you do, because everybody does the same thing all the time for every situation one could ever come across.

But us gaijin/foreigners/outsiders really mucked up that concept… even after all these centuries… as our free-thinking ways keep throwing a proverbial monkey wrench into the system.

That’s good, right?

From Monty Python’s: The Life of Brian:

Brian: “You’re all individuals!”
Crowd: “We’re all individuals!!!”
Lone voice: “I’m not.”  

Or, if you prefer, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

Spock: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Kirk: “Or the one.”

Kirk’s comment may sound weird… but in this case, he means the “needs of the one” outweigh the needs of the many. Sometimes that trumps all. Sometimes.

The Japanese are expected to follow a hierarchy of command… it’s military-like… then again… pretty much every culture in the world follows that hierarchy within a family… until they decide not to and form their own family where they are the boss… shunting the old, former boss (usually the father), aside.

That’s good right? Progress, right?

The major flaw with the way the Japanese concept is blindly followed in Japan is of course the fact that sometimes the leader isn’t always the smartest one in the group…

Then again… sometimes the leader is Kirk.  Or Brian.

I’m not.

But I am,
Andrew "wa-wa-wa" Joseph  

 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Sex In Marriages And Crappy Surveys And Newspaper Reporting

There's a new report by The Guardian (click HERE, if you want to later) that points out that a record number of Japanese couple live in sexless marriages... and many that do, report only having sex once a month.

Well fug me. No wonder my exploits 25 years ago seem unreal to some readers. Ha!

Let's not beat a dead horse too much here... we already know that Japan is suffering a negative population growth...

But let's take a look at what media darlings, The Guardian, is reporting and see if the study, and thus its reporting is indeed reliable.

The article is based upon a recent survey conducted by the Japan Family Planning Association… who discovered that nearly  (NEARLY - IE less than 50 percent) of married couples have not had sex for more than a month, and did not expect that to change in the near future.

Someone get these people a new crystal ball... one with a crack in it.

Josephine Suzuki: "Magic EightBall, will we have success in the near future?" 
Magic Eightball: Define 'near future'.


 Okay… so how many people did the Japan Family Planning Association ask?

3,000.

The survey ASKED 3,000 people between the ages of 16-49 at the end of 2016…

So… the key word is ASKED. How many people actually responded to the survey?

Uh… that would be slightly above 1,200 people.

Okay… that’s not much.

Let’s see… the United Nations estimates that as of February 12, 2017, Japan has a population of 126,150,318… which is interesting because the 2013 census of Japan has it at 127,300,000 or so people.

We all know that Japan has a negative population growth owning to reduction in children being born (owing to the whole lack of sex thing), as well as very, very limited immigration… 

Anyhow, of that 126,150,318 people, we know that not everyone is between the age of 16-49… 

So let me just take an arbitrary number of 40% of the entire population as being a decent enough approximation for the country of Japan, and let me do some math.

So, with a base of 50,460,127 people to represent Japan’s entire 16-49-year-old base… the study’s 1,200 people represents 0.00002378115 percent of the entire 16-49-year-old Japanese population.

That’s a frickin’ minuscule representation of (my guesstimate) Japanese population for that age range.

Can you really write a newspaper article or a study based on such piddly representation like that?

You shouldn’t.

But… let’s go a step further…

The study talked about sexless marriages… that nearly half of all Japanese marriages are essentially sexless.

Okay “The Guardian”… let’s look at the veracity of that bold and misleading statement.

How many married Japanese couples responded to the survey?  

655.

That’s right… 655 married couples responded to a survey… and let’s say it was 1/2 that said they weren’t getting much sex… well… that means these results are based on… COUPLES... did couple actually respond together? Doubt it... why are they responding to surveys instead of having sex?

So... of those 655 married couples, does that mean that there were only actually 327 people who responded? The Guardian was not clear on that fact.

Heck... let's just suppose The Guardian meant 655 individual married couples responded.  

Screw it… I’m not even going to do the math… because it’s just so bloody ridiculous.

How come the Japan Family Planning Association only sent out 3,000 surveys?

Why not to everyone… or to every couple that has an official marriage license in Japan that is still currently living there?

3,000 survey questionnaires sent out… 1,200 respondents… and of those, 655 who are part of a married couple.

Did the survey ask if the respondent was male or female? (Probably)

Would a male be more likely to tell the truth, as opposed to the female wife? Doubt it. I believe women to generally be more honest when it comes to answering intrusive and personal questions like in the survey.

And look… I just found a newspaper article in the Toronto Star (click HERE, afterward if you believe everything mainstream media tells you) based on a study that Ryne Sherman and his co-authors published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior earlier this year showing, which says that  millennials in their 20s and 30s — the so-called “hookup generation” — are anything but.

And recall that THIS is NOT about Japan!!!! This is about the U.S.... but the Toronto Star didn't really mention just which country these results were about.

Sherman, an associate professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University (Go Owls!) found that about 15 per cent of American 20- to 24-year-olds have never had penetrative sex - virgins. Been there, didn't like it, but am basically a born-again virgin.

Their parents... (IE my age), that virginal percentage was just 6 percent.
Apparently this latter data was culled from the General Social Survey, and does not specify what sex is... though I'm pretty sure in this case anyone reading a question about whether they have had sex or not, would realize it to mean full on penetrative intercourse (Bill Clinton, excepted).

The Toronto Star fails to mention anything about what the older General Social Survey was... or when it was... blah-blah-blah. Screw it... I'm not even going to look it up, because the way the article was presented was bogus.



The newspaper article says: "Researchers floated a few possible reasons for the trend: It’s a hangover from fear-based sex-education of the ’90s; It’s part of a trend toward less risk taking — today’s young people do drugs less, drink less and use condoms more than their parents did; It’s a failure to launch — economic trends have landed many millennials at their parents’ place, not the most conducive environment for sexytimes."

Lots of wonderful puns included, and yet someone still couldn't take the time to present numerical facts - such as how many people were surveyed...

Anyhow... for one minute, let's assume that the general findings of the article/study are correct... that Millenials aren't getting it as much as people like myself did a mere 25 years earlier.

Why?

Me... I blame it on the fact that people don't meet people anymore... that there's this thing people started saying back in the 1990s, that being promiscuous is bad... or that you shouldn't date anyone where you work, or other crap like that. 

There's the Internet... if you just want sex, you could probably find that... but love and a long-lasting relationship.. while not impossible, it seems like finding that perfect match is difficult... especially for people that are used to doing all of their talking via texting and e-mails or cell phones... 

People don't know how to communicate anymore. 

Trust me. 

No really. 

My gift has been the act of communication... to be able to read people... to notice things about them... a haircut... a new blouse or earrings... to smile when I talk... to be able to talk about things I know little about, but also to listen to learn about things I know little about. 

There was another study I heard about that say that because of the ways in which people get their information (social media et al) ... those same people seem to have developed an attention span of somewhere around eight seconds. 

Holy ADHD, Batman!

Eight seconds... you can't find out anything about anything in eight seconds. 

You ever notice that I don't write brief blogs? No sh!t eh? People USED to like to learn about people and things... 

Do you think that 25 years ago when I was in Japan, and was rejected by Noboko after I wrote a haiku for her, that my attention would have wandered elsewhere and I would have given up?

No... what if it was in Japan now, and texted her...  asking if she wanted to go for o-cha (green tea), and she said no... would that be it? Probably... because you can't have a conversation... can't truly express oneself adequately simply by texting, IM-ing or via e-mails. 

You can't hear the rich timbre of my voice that could melt snow during an ice storm... you couldn't see the glint in my eye... the confidence in the way I stand... how much of a slick sumbitch I was... hmmm... okay, that might have worked against me... but photographic evidence shows my confidence in winning a woman. (That sounded sexist, and I didn't mean it to be... but you know what I mean.)

If we were doing the whole digital/virtual date asking out thing, then I wouldn't have been able to see the confusion in Noboko's eyes after I handed her a haiku I wrote in 20 seconds telling her it was for her: 

Her beautiful eyes
Seem to hypnotize my soul
Capturing my heart

I wrote that within minutes of first seeing her... actually gasping audibly as I turned to another teacher to ask "WHO is THAT?"

I might be a writer... and fairly capable one... but there is no way in hell typing crap on a screen could ever equal actually being beside a person and exposing their own true feelings.

After seeing Noboko's confusion... it meant I knew what I had to do next... not really... but I did know that I had to do something, because I knew she knew I had just written her a "love haiku"... and I could see that she wasn't impressed... or she was scared...

I'll bet I was the first ever foreigner who had ever had the nerve to hit on her... the first person to hit on her immediately after being introduced... the first person to hit on her at work and not at an office enkai (party).   

I also knew from seeing her, that it was love at first sight. It happens.

How does love at first sight work via Instant Messaging? 

What would you do in 2017? How do you text someone you don't know?

Yes, I've "met" people on-line... and luckily my intelligence shines through better than most... and luckily enough, those women were smart enough to recognize that.

Does a typed love haiku have the same passion as one written by pen on paper?

I could smell Noboko's shampoo... and let me tell you... when it comes to physical attraction between two people... being able to smell one another... pheromones.

How do I love thee?   
Let me count the ways... 

The 21st century is screwed, man... and not in a good way.

Back to that survey crap... 

At no point in the Toronto Star article does it discuss HOW many people were surveyed... WHERE those surveys were distributed... WHO those people were (social background)... WHAT exactly was asked (what does "sex" imply, relative to previous sex studies - and are we talking between men and women, men or just women?) WHEN was the survey conducted... the WHY seems pretty obvious.

The Toronto Star article does then mention plenty of people commenting about how they too were virgins... but again... how many people commented versus the number of people who aren't bothering to comment versus how many people are there?  

Now... I think I did a pretty decent job in debunking the Japanese study, and have noted that the article written by The Guardian is irresponsible and misleading.

And while The Guardian did report the survey response numbers, it still implied that the data it represented was important and did indeed represent the entire country of Japan.

It does not represent the country of Japan. It represents those few married couples/people who responded to a small survey.

Do me a favor... anytime you see reports based on a survey... question how many people participated, and then determine if it is a fair representation of a block of people for the survey results to be considered truly valid.

Sigh,
Andrew Joseph
HERE

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Silence - Movie Review About The Japanese Christian Church


This is essentially a movie review about Silence… a 2017 movie about the early days of Christianity in Japan… or more specifically, just what the heck was going on in Japan AFTER Christianity had essentially been driven underground by 1630AD.


Silence is about those who followed the outlawed faith in Japan… and about those who tries to preach the religion… about those who harbored them.. and about those who did not.

At 2 hours and 41 minutes, the movie is entirely too long.

At 2 hours and 41 minutes, the movie is entirely too short.

The story revolves around two Christian missionaries who sneak into Japan to try and find out the fate of a fellow priest who went missing some years earlier.

Some of the action takes place on Goto Island… a small island off the coast of Nagasaki… and about the many villagers there who follow Christianity in secret, refusing to disavow their faith even if it meant their death… because they were told by other Christian missionaries that when they died, a paradise would await the truly pious.

D’oh. Faith.

I actually came across five Christians who live in my small city of Ohtawara in Tochigi-ken during my sojourn there 1990-93.

Four belonged to the Tomura family… the patriarch being the fabulous Tomura-sensei, the head English teacher at Wakkusa Chu Gakko (Wakakusa Junior High School)… who except for two of my girlfriends Junko and Nobuko (one a mentally ill stalker/sex fiend who showed me the ropes about ropes, the other the love of my life back then as well as being a Japanese teacher of English at Nozaki Chu Gakko), spoke the most fluent English of Japanese person I had met.

The Tomura family.

The other Christian… that would be Padre Bernard Hiyamizu Yoshimi, who led the Catholic church located next door to my apartment, immediately south…  something I didn’t know for months, as my apartment’s balconies faced north and west… and I rarely, if ever ventured south… I wonder why the hell that was??!!

I only visited the Church once in my three years there, despite being raised a Roman Catholic.  I was then and now more of an agnostic… I believe in God, but not really in any particular church or faith.

I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read the Torah. I’ve read the Quran. I’ve read the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tibetan Book of the Dead while on acid (the latter only, in an attempt to follow the lead of John Lennon, who read the book and wrote the Beatles' song Tomorrow Never Knows).

I read about the Rosicrucians, Quakers, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnness(es)...

I’ve searched for faith and salvation, found I had none and got none. Happiness is over-rated.

I simply have little room for faith, and too much room for fact.

I do not begrudge anyone in their beliefs... more power to you. If it makes you happy to be happy, then be happy. But if your religion doesn't make you happy... well... I don't understand the point. But that's just me.

I like Saint Augustine, who said: Love and do as you will.

So - Padre Bernard Hiyamizu Yoshimi … I wrote all about him here… suffice to say that he was one cool guy. He was born on Goto Island, but lived in Nagasaki… in fact, he saw a blinding flash of light on August 9, 1945, lucky to have been outside the blast zone… but the next day wandered through the radioactive fires—not know what they were—to administer medical help to those who needed it.

It’s funny… if I had seen what he saw that day and ensuring days… I never would have believed in any god ever again, but Padre Bernard Hiyamizu Yoshimi, his resolve got stronger.

I know you have to believe… but I don’t think I even believe in Beatles anymore…

You can read about my interview with a Japanese Catholic Priest HERE.

Anyhow… the movie, Silence… it’s all about religious persecution… about refusing to allow people to follow their beliefs in a deity that may or may even exist.

Imagine… countries making up laws regarding something that may or may not even exist except in people’s faith.

But I guess we do that with all sorts of things… imagine holding a $100 bill…. and then expecting someone to give you $100-dollars worth of something.

Now imagine you only have $1 bill… how is some colored ink the only determining factor about how much food you will receive from your purchasing source.

Faith in a system… real or not… that you don’t understand… that at any given moment could cease to exist should enough people stop believing in it…. like the old American gold standard…

Whatever.

This past Saturday, after we found out that my wife’s mother was diagnosed with her third type of cancer after beating the other two over the past eight years, my 11-year-old son asked me why God would make people suffer?

I could spew my former party line here, but I said “I don’t know.”

I really don’t. No one does. Any answer given is merely an opinion and not a statement based on any provable fact.

I like provable facts.

Silence may be about Japan vs Christianity, but it’s a poignant reminder that regardless of religion, peaceful people must be allowed the right to practice their faith.

Silence further opened my eyes to the suffering of people who were refused the right to practice their faith… any faith… and I, too wonder why, if there is a God, why it would feel the need to make its faithful suffer… a question Silence asks time and time again.. the same thing that drives me to ask questions of everything… everybody’s looking for something…

Why is the proof for God’s glory the faithful’s suffering?

That’s what Silence will make you ask.

Silence is NOT an enjoyable film, but it is a good done.

Ya gotta have faith:
Andrew Joseph
PS: I’m not a George Michael music fan, but I freely admit this is a pretty good song.

Or, if you prefer, Ministry and Jesus Built My Hot Rod.

And while I first heard this while I was in Japan (thanks, brother Ben, I listened to it a lot more when I got home to Toronto. I pity my poor parents! LOL! But I still love this song!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

School’s Out

As a head’s up… I’m probably a bit all over the place today with my writing… because I write whatever comes out of my head… keeps things interesting… 


I hardly ever write about my interactions with my students over the three years I spent as an assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & teaching) Programme in the rural city of Ohtawara, in the prefecture of Tochigi.

You might put it down to the fact that I was a lousy teacher, the kids hated me, and I hated them—but nothing could be farther from the truth.

The kids respected me, and I respected them.

In Japan, you can’t get much better than respect. Period.

Love… sure… but you ain’t getting love without respect.

In fact, long-time readers are quite aware of how many of my students at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) went out of their way to tell their pretty young English teacher, Kikuchi-sensei that An-do-ryu-sensei was a really cool and nice guy.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly what they told her, suffice to say that Noboko (Kikuchi-sensei) told me that their opinion of me helped change her opinion of me.

It changed her from  a Japanese co-worker I was hopelessly in love with at first sight to my girlfriend and fiance that I was hopelessly in love with and treasure decades later every moment I got to spend with her.

They saw the way Noboko and I looked at each other in class… me, tongue hanging out, daydreaming with a wry grin on my face… and aside from the tongue-thing, I always had a smile on my face when at a school.

Noboko was new to the whole teaching thing… and being a very pretty woman… and single… every Japanese male at the school was trying to make a play for her - only most were scared off by the fact that her father was the boss of the principals in our northern half of the province… those were the smart ones.

I wasn’t that smart, and even if I was, I wouldn’t have given a crap.

Even though I was shot down initially, the students all saw that there was something weird with how I appeared in the company of their pretty teacher.  

A bunch of first year kids - boys and girls corralled me during lunch play time and asked me - IN ENGLISH - if I liked Kikuchi-sensei.

Maybe this is what gets me in trouble… or maybe this is what gets me respect, but in Japan I vowed that any kid who asked me in question - no matter how embarrassing the question - would get a straight, honest answer.

So, I told them yes. And then did a couple of pumps of my hand over my heard… and then sighed.

They all bowed to me… grim-faced… and then began to chatter amongst themselves in Japanese.

I don’t speak Japanese… I do a little, but not enough to know what I bunch or tweens speaking in tween-speak are saying. 

And then… over the ensuing weeks… they went about  their plan.

And it wasn’t just the kids from this one class… they apparently went and told the kids in the other classes… and other grades… but not to any of the other adults, save one.

They, according to Noboko, simply chatted up my perceived virtues. 

These kids went out of their way to convince their teacher that she should go out with me because I was a good guy.

I was a good guy.

I don’t know how the kid’s knew that, but I can only hope it was because I treated them with respect…  and maybe that helped them respect me… and then… well… those kids went above and beyond.

I get asked why I don’t write about my experience as a junior high school teacher… truthfully, the stuff that happened IN class was boring… because we followed Japanese protocols…

But, i do my best work when I’m not stuck following protocols. My students, too.

I never felt like I was a teacher in Japan. Never.

That would be an insult to all the men and women who worked their butts off to become a real teacher.

I’ve been a piano and clarinet teacher. I’ve been a soccer coach… hockey, baseball… all for youth. I have a degree in political science and a college whatever in journalism.

I’ve taught… but I’m no teacher.

The fact that I couldn’t get into teacher’s college despite letters from teachers on JET,  kids I coached and kids I taught music too… I couldn’t get in because to teacher’s college, the only thing that matters is one’s marks/grades from university. Experience, and a person who earned the respect of his charges?

That’s not worth as much as some brilliant, but ultimately dull person with an A+ in everything.

It’s okay… I should have studied more… but i was too busy coaching, and giving music lessons while I was in university…

But yeah… nothing interesting ever happened IN the class room, except for a few laughs here and there… but nothing major to write about.

All the good stuff occurred outside the school confines of classroom.

I know it’s tough to see, but if you look at the top of the blog… under the title, I provide a description of what you will read: An outsider’s view of life in Japan.

Nothing about teaching. Mostly because there’s very little to tell.

For the record, the two girls in the photo are/were my students… probably old enough now to have kids as old as they were when we first met.

Look how they jumped into the line behind the Buddhist monks at this temple in Nikko… not because they were supposed to, but because they wanted to…

It’s my favorite photo of Japan, I think… just a couple of people not paying attention to the rules and having fun…

You know they did that for me, eh… they are from a different school, too.

I taught at seven city junior high schools. Five had kids that would do anything for me, without teacher’s needing to be involved. One wanted to do anything to me (though not everyone), owing to no teacher control. One didn’t get the chance to do anything with me owing to strict teacher control.

Okay… maybe I’ll present (re-present) some stories of my interactions with kids… noting that none will actually be about the classroom.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Today’s blog title is School’s Out by the awesome Alice Cooper, a sly way of mentioning that name on this day.